Monday, May 24, 2010


Why do people write poetry? What is it about poetry that makes it so different than actually writing a story?

Poetry, for me, is like noteless music. There is no audible tune, no audible melody, harmony, descant. Yet, when you read, when you let your voice flow over the metered waves of words, there is a song that can be heard. There's the floating notes of a well-paced rhythm, the sturdy beating pulse of a hard-hit pattern, the pulsing ebb and flow of free verse.

Take this verse, for instance:

When blossoms flowered amid the snow, upon a winter's night,
Was born a Child, the Christmas Rose, the King of Love and Light.

This is the first line from "Gesu Bambino", a Christmas song. There is a joyous flow of rhythm, a lilting "tra-LA la-la, LA la-la, LA la-la LA" of beat. It makes your heart beat in tune and makes you smile without meaning to.

Take this line:

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship, and a start to steer her by.

This is from "Sea Fever", by John Masefield. You can hear the wild, needful beat of tempo here, the wistful thump of a yearning heart.

Poetry takes a heart's beat, whether it is joy or sorrow, loneliness, wistfulness, anger, and puts the beat of emotion to words. Poetry can speak to a heart better than many other written words, because it is raw emotion that is written.

Poetry sings, whether it means to or not. Poetry can be long or short, a full tale or a single moment, and in that lyrical phrase, in the singular moment, a revelation occurs.

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